Opportunities for youth in Africa

3 minute read

Tell us about yourself

I was born in Ghana and moved to the UK in my early teenage years. After my undergraduate degree in 2007, I started a career at Citibank in its financial crime investigations team. Over the last 13 years, I have worked with global financial institutions and the Big 4, helping organisations meet their compliance requirements, especially in anti-money laundering and economic sanctions. I have held senior management positions across the financial sector and my most recent position has been the Head of Global Training and Communications for the Chief Controls Office (CCO) at Barclays.

In 2019, I graduated from Saïd Business School with a postgraduate qualification in Financial Strategy. During my time at Oxford, I founded Emerging Business Intelligence and Innovation (EBII) Compliance 2018. I pitched the business idea to the Oxford University Innovation Centre and became the first African to join its incubator programme.

EBII Compliance is a company that provides a critical link between companies in the West that are seeking opportunities for diversification and improving their returns, and businesses in Africa that are looking to expand their access to financing for growth. The company does this through regularly held conferences, compliance training programmes, and due diligence/know your customer reports, among others.

What are the opportunities in Africa?

In my opinion, the agricultural sector remains dominant across the African continent, more notable in Nigeria and Egypt which produce one-third of the continent’s agricultural output. Some 60 per cent of the world’s unused arable land is in Africa. According to a McKinsey report, agriculture represents 15 per cent of the continent’s total GDP or more than $100 billion annually.

Africa’s banking sector is also thriving, and the industry is currently the second most profitable in the region. The return on equity (ROE) of African banks was more than double the six per cent achieved by banks in developed markets. 

The fintech sector has seen the highest emergence over the last ten years. An example is M-Pesa, a mobile money app used by 96% of Kenyans that has changed the lives of millions in Africa. Another example is Google, which opened its official research centre in Ghana in 2019.

Challenges of ‘doing business’ in Africa

Africa presents a very diverse landscape across its different countries and industries. Similar to Asia and the Americas, Africa does not have laws, customs, and conditions that are universally applicable. Underpinning any business decisions, a clear understanding of the risk and compliance profile of the proposition under consideration is a critical catalyst to further growth and scale. 

Doing business in Africa requires patience, tenacity, and a different set of skills than gaining entry into a more mature market such as Europe or America. Building relevant relationships with local partners is important. Being very creative and having local know-how is also essential to help with adapting to local conditions. Special attention must be paid to the following when conducting due diligence: business model risk, the political environment, the economy, legal systems, culture, local knowledge and local networks.

Key lessons for partners, collaborators, and investors looking to work in or within Africa

Sufficient due diligence is the key to any successful business in Africa. The right due diligence will help you obtain information that would be useful in identifying potential defects in the business opportunity and thus avoiding a bad business transaction or even breaching regulatory requirements and exposing your company to reputational damage and potential fines.

The key lesson for ‘youth in Africa’

The opportunities for African youth are endless and they must see and seize these opportunities.